Ostewart's Multiple IEM Cable Review Thread

  1. ostewart
    This will be an ongoing project that will be updated with new cables as and when I get them. I know a lot of people don’t believe in cable differences, but I personally believe in cables making a small difference, there are also ergonomic benefits from aftermarket cables. Cables are about synergy with the headphones you have too, and finding the right pairing is essential.

    Disclaimer: These cables were sent from the manufacturers for review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings. The Toxic Cables one is made by me from materials I purchased from Toxic Cables.

    All these cables are being used with my Inearz P350 custom monitors / 64 Audio U6 / Noble Sage


    Nobunaga Labs Medusa:
    Silver Plated Copper, 8 strands.

    http://nobunagalabs.com/nobunagalabs_premium/custom-recable/medusa/

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    Packaging, Build and Ergonomics:
    The Medusa comes in a fairly plain, clear plastic box, you can find the model name on the front and information (in Japanese) on the back of the box. It also has a polarity picture on the back, nothing special here.

    The build overall is good, the flat braid looks great, the y-split has a chin slider, but the jack lacks strain relief. I can see this being a weak point over time (should be easy enough to add some 3:1 heatshrink). Apart from that I cannot see any issues.

    Ergonomics are hit and miss, the flat braid is good, the cable is thin, but the sheathing is stiff and transmits a lot of cable noise. I find the cable noise is what really lets this cable down, I don’t think I’ve experienced a cable that is as noisy as this.

    On a personal preference note, I don’t like memory wire, these come with it but it’s easy to remove which slightly helps with the cable noise but does not fix it.

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    Sound:
    The Medusa stays true to the common consensus on SPC cables, it increases the air and clarity, and tightens up the bass a little. I find that this cable brings out a little extra sparkle in the highs, and the bass isn’t as full. The bass becomes tighter, and more controlled, but this does come at a slight cost of slightly artificial timbre.

    Kick drums hit with less body, and vocals come across with a little less warmth than the stock cable. This cable does a great job of cleaning up the sound a little and bringing out added sparkle, it also adds a little width to the soundstage.

    Now I would say this is a brighter sounding cable vs stock, so it will pair better with warmer sounding IEM’s.


    Forza Audio Works Hybrid:

    4 strands of 26AWG cryo 7N UPOCC copper + UPOCC silver
    http://forzaaudioworks.com/en/product.php?id_product=75
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    Packaging, Build Quality, Ergonomics:
    Packaging is great, a small card box full of wood shavings, holds a fabric pouch with the cable inside. A very attractive package, with a warranty card also included. The packaging helps protect the cable during shipping, and gives a premium feel when you open the parcel.

    Build quality is flawless, the braid is very even, the heat shrink very neat and a lovely, low profile carbon fibre y-split. It has a small piece of heat-shrink that acts as a chin slider, which is very handy.

    Ergonomics are excellent, it has the right balance between durability and flexibility. I Find it very comfortable to use for daily usage without getting in the way or feeling too heavy. It also coils nicely, and isn't too bulky to fit in a small storage case. I find angled connectors at the CIEM end to be very comfortable, it helps guide the cable behind the ear without uncomfortable memory wire.

    This cable does not emit cable noise, at least in my testing it didn't.

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    Sound:
    This cable brings out a tiny bit more space and air in my P350, which when used with the stock cable are quite warm and relaxed. This cable makes them a little more lively and engaging without making them sound too bright or analytical.

    There is a little extra presence in the treble, with smoother, more refined lows. The lows are better separated and articulate, being also more precise.

    Essentially this cable keeps the stock sound, and just adds a little more air and separation, better control and just a hint of extra presence in the treble.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  2. ostewart
    Plussound Apollonian+
    UPOCC Type 6 Litz

    http://www.plussoundaudio.com/customcables/inearmonitor.html

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    Packaging, Build Quality and Ergonomics:
    The cable comes very neatly packaged in a small card box with plusSound printed on it, the cable comes in a sealed bag and included in the packaging is a plusSound branded amp strap which is a nice little accessory. I don't think much needs to be said about the packaging, it does its job of protecting the cable during shipping and looks good.

    Build quality is what a lot of people buy aftermarket cables for, and this is no exception. The cable is superbly built with a sturdy Rhodium plated 3.5mm jack (with suitable strain relief) which will fit most phone cases too. The y-split is aluminium which is nice and lightweight, below the y-split the cable is sheathed in very soft sheathing. The IEM connectors are covered in branded heat-shrink (the logo faces outside to differentiate between L and R) and expertly finished, the top part of the cable is un-sheathed and has no memory wire (which I prefer) it does have a heat-shrink chin slider which is good. Everything feels built to last, and I cannot see failure of any part of this cable being a problem.

    This cable is quite thick and heavy, but it is still usable for portable usage. I find the weight helps keep the bare cable behind your ears, and there isn't too much weight as to cause any discomfort, but for everyday commuting I would pick maybe a lighter cable. I really like to look and feel of this cable though, just not the most practical if you move about a lot. Depends on your usage really.
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    Sound:

    The first thing I notice with the compared to stock is slightly warmer lows, but they are also slightly more articulate and separate. It gives a subtle boost and makes my monitors sound a little fuller which depending on your IEM's is a good thing. I think my monitors don't need the boost in the lows, but bass guitars really shine on them now with the little boost, you can really distinguish them easily with this cable.

    Next difference would be a slight boost in the treble extension, It's not as noticeable as the lows, but the highs sound a little better now as they have a little bit more sparkle. Also improved is the soundstage, they are still intimate sounding (the nature of the IEM's I have) but everything sounds a little more separate without being detached, they actually sound even more coherent with a slightly wider soundstage.

    This cable is slightly fuller than the stock one, and would pair well with more neutral/bright IEM's.
     
    PLUSSOUND likes this.
  3. ostewart
    Atlas Cables Zeno IEM
    OCC Copper, 3.5mm Single Ended Jack

    http://www.atlascables.com/hp-zeno-iem.html

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    Packaging, Build Quality and Ergonomics:
    The Zeno IEM comes in a very nice Atlas cables box, on the side it has boxes for the relevant connectors, and they are hand crossed off showing the configuration of the cable inside. On the back you have some information about Atlas Cables and also the name of who made the cable, you can register the cable online for a 5 year warranty which is an added bonus. Inside the box you get a little manual about how to look after your cable, they also recommend cable burn-in and explain why.

    The cable is very well built with solid connections on each end, a small metal y-split (no chin slider, but the split is quite high up compared to other cables), the bottom half is sleeved in fabric, my only issue is the branded heatshrink on the 3.5mm jack is long and stiff.

    The ergonomics are good, the bottom sleeved section is flexible and soft, the 3.5mm jack is fairly big and has a large section of stiff heatshrink which on an IEM cable I would have preferred to be shorter, the top section of the cable is soft rubber, and the connectors do not have any memory wire. I prefer the cables to come out at an angle from the 2-pin connector as they fit behind your ear better this way, but adding a little heatshrink is very easy (as per the photos). Not quite as ergonomic as some of the softer, braided cables out there, but it’s still a very nice cable to use.

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    Sound:
    When I first listened I was not overly impressed, I thought it sounded a little bloated and compressed. Now I am not a huge believer in cable burn-in but I left the cable playing, and used the cable for a while too, and it has really grown on me, to the point it is possibly my favourite cable I have at the moment.

    This is a very pure copper cable that does not aim to change the sound of your IEM’s in a big way like some silver cables do, what it does do however is offer a higher resolution sound with a wider less congested soundstage, tighter lows and airier sound. The mids come across with added clarity and layering; the highs whilst far from bright, gain a little extra detail.

    This cable has no hint of any kind of artificial tone, it is very organic and natural providing more linear bass response, and a very wide and coherent sound, with excellent dynamics and control.

    I would consider this cable to be a more neutral sounding cable with added resolution and a wider soundstage, the separation and air around instruments is increased and this cable will pair well with most IEM’s.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  4. ostewart
    Effect Audio Ares II
    UPOCC Litz Copper 26awg, 2.5mm balanced

    https://www.effectaudio.com/upgrade-cables/iem-cables/iem-premium-series/ares-ii.html

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    Packaging, Build quality and Ergonomics:
    The Ares II comes in an excellent littler white box, with the company logo on the front. The cable is carefully wound around a foam insert. The box is very simple but elegant, I like it.

    The cable is very well built, as is to be expected from most custom cable companies. The 2.5mm balanced jack is sturdy, but there is no strain relief on that end. The cable has a tight round 4 core braid, a slim y-split but again no strain relief. You get a section of molded cable that acts as memory wire, without the metal insert, which is excellent and the 2-pin connectors look great. All the connectors and the y-split have the Effect audio label on them which is a nice touch, and the cable feels well built, even with the lack of strain relief.

    Ergonomics are truly excellent, I thought the cable was going to be slightly stiff by the looks of it, but once it is in your hands it really is very supple, with an almost rubbery texture. This means cable noise is minimal, and it is a very comfortable cable to use. The memory wire is excellent as it doesn’t use the convention stiff piece of wire. Overall no ergonomic issues, it is possibly the most comfortable cable I have used.

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    Sound:
    The Effect Ares II is really an excellent cable, it slight goes against the norm of a warm and lush sound for copper. It actually has quite a neutral sound with excellent impact and dynamics, but with a bit of added upper mid/lower treble presence. This really adds some extra air and sparkle to the sound of your IEM’s.

    It almost sounds like a good silver plated cable, but without any lack of body, the lows are full and extend with ease, the mids are more natural and then the extra presence up top makes for a very fun listening experience.

    Details are more prominent, but the soundstage is a little limited. This cable has the excellent properties of a good copper cable with good body and impact, but then it also adds more sparkle. It might not be the most natural sounding cable, or the most refined, but it really does bring some welcome changes.

    Cables are all about synergy, and this cable would match a headphone that is neutral to slightly dark, as it adds some sparkle without taking away excellent bass response. For the asking price, this is possibly one of the best upgrade cables, if not the best.
     
  5. ostewart
    Lavricables Reference
    4 cores of AWG28 (0.33mm ⌀) solid silver 6N purity wire
    http://www.lavricables.com/cables/reference-silver-1964-ears-adel-a10-u10-a12-u12-upgrade-cable/

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    Packaging, Build Quality, and Ergonomics:
    The Reference cable comes in a nice little velvet pouch; there is no other packaging to speak of. Lavricables are very well priced and less on packaging means more savings to the end user, I am not that bothered about the lack of fancy retail box.

    The cable is very well built, the braid is very even and the connectors are all very well put together, the connectors cannot be opened, they are sealed with glue. The y-split is a simple piece of heatshrink and there is a chin slider, included are some light and flexible rubber ear guides. The cable has good strain relief, with an extra strand of wire internally where there is more stress to help prevent the cable from breaking. Overall I really like the build of the cable, and providing you don’t stress it much it should last a long time.

    Ergonomics are not this cables strength, but that is because it uses a single strand of solid pure silver cable so you expect it to be a little stiff and also to transmit noise. It is not as bad as I was expecting, but it does retain its shape if coiled for any length of time and is a little noisy when it hits against things. The ear guides help lower the noise, but I prefer to use the cable without them.

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    Sound:
    To start off with the Reference cable does not sound thin, the bass does not disappear but what happens is really impressive. The bass becomes tighter, more responsive but still full bodied and articulate. This is not a cable that is thin or harsh; the lows still slam and punch with excellent power, body and extension.

    The midrange becomes sharper with finer details being easier to pick out, there is extra air around notes and the sound is less congested in faster passages. Electric guitars in rock music have a sharper edge and become a bit more aggressive and crisp.

    The highs gain some extra presence and seem to extend a little more effortlessly, however there is not even a hint of glare or harshness. There is a better sense of air up top with slightly more natural tonality.

    This cable does not totally transform the sound of your IEM’s, but it pairs best with IEM’s that have a slightly warmer sound. This cable tightens up the lows, adds additional air to the whole sound and there is improved separation and definition. The treble gets a slight boost without any harshness, if you could get this sound from a stranded cable, it would be high up in my list of recommendations.

    This cable is a more up front, energetic and engaging yet still airy, it is not a lush laid back sounding cable so careful pairing is key. Lavricables offer some excellent sounding cables, at very reasonable prices, but they are best suited to home systems where you won’t be moving around a lot.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  6. ostewart
    Effect Audio Eros II

    UPOCC Litz Copper / Silver Hybrid - 26awg
    https://www.effectaudio.com/iem-premium-series/eros-ii.html

    Used with my Audio Opus #2 DAP / Objective2 amp and my Inearz P350 custom monitors / 64 Audio U6 / Noble Sage

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    Packaging, Build quality and Ergonomics:
    The Eros II comes in an excellent little white box, with the company logo on the front. The cable is carefully wound around a foam insert. The box is very simple but elegant, I like it.

    The cable is very well built, as is to be expected from most custom cable companies. The 2.5mm balanced jack is sturdy, but there is no strain relief on that end. The cable has a tight round 4 core braid, a slim y-split but again no strain relief. You get a section of molded cable that acts as memory wire, without the metal insert, which is excellent and the 2-pin connectors look great. All the connectors and the y-split have the Effect audio label on them which is a nice touch, and the cable feels well built, even with the lack of strain relief.

    Ergonomics are truly excellent, I thought the cable was going to be slightly stiff by the looks of it, but once it is in your hands it really is very supple, with an almost rubbery texture. This means cable noise is minimal, and it is a very comfortable cable to use. The memory wire is excellent as it doesn’t use the convention stiff piece of wire. Overall no ergonomic issues, Effect cables are possibly the most comfortable cables I have used.

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    Sound:
    The Eros II is a special cable, it is special in the way that it will pair wonderfully with pretty much any IEM out there and sound excellent. Interestingly Effect have decided to use the copper strands for the positive signal and the silver strands for the negative. This creates a cable that is extremly well textured and layered, one that has warmth and body down low, yet also crystal clear highs.

    The Eros II is a beautifully balanced cable, that does not aim to change the sound of your IEM's in general, what is does is open up the sound and allow you to hear details more clearly.

    It is smooth, refined and enjoyable, it widens the soundstage and creates a better sense of air and space between notes and instruments. It is crystal clear not smoothing over details, yet it is not harsh in its portrayal. When using the Eros II it gets out of the way and allows you to enjoy the IEM's you are using with better depth and layering.

    If you are looking for warmer lows, or brighter highs from a cable, the Eros II is not it. But if you like the sound of your IEM's and want to improve the sound and bring it up another level in refinement, separation and layering the Eros II is superb.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  7. ostewart
    WA Audio
    Liqueur 8-Wire:
    OCC Silver with gold.
    https://www.facebook.com/WAaudioStore/

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    The liqueur 8-wire is a wonderfully built cable with a very even braid, it’s flexible and lightweight which makes it comfortable to use. All connectors are well relieved and have good connectors.

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    This cable is very very good, the lows are tight and well controlled and this cable is all about transparency and separation. The lows still extend easily, but they are less bloated and quicker. This is not to say that the sound is lean though, as this cable still has good body when called for. The midrange is very clear and transparent with finer details shining through with ease, there is added air and separation but still with the correct tonal balance. This cable will show up any harshness in the recording, the highs are well extended with excellent presentation. The highs are not emphasised but will show up bad recordings due to the transparent nature of this cable. The layering and separation of this cable are incredible, so much detail shines through but without sounding muddled or slow.

    The Liqueur 8-Wire is a transparent and beautifully balanced sounding cable, where it excels is in the detail retrieval and separation. It is open and detailed without sounding thin. It has a slightly rich texture to it, and is a superb cable that will pair well with most IEM’s.


    Gin:
    Silver with gold.
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    Gin is a 2 strand cable, twisted below the y-split and single strands above, it’s a very neat cable that is also flexible and easy to use. Once again we have excellent connectors that are well relieves and this cable looks great.

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    The Gin is similar to its sibling the Liqueur but is a little brighter with more focus on bringing out a slightly sharper edge of notes instead of the slightly smoother, softer sound of the Liqueur. Whilst Liqueur is smooth but very transparent, Gin is a bit more upfront and exciting. Lows are even tighter being very quick in response time, but there is slightly less body than with a stock cable. The midrange is also very airy and less warm, favouring detail over lushness. The highs are a little more up front but still not overly bright like some cables can be, cymbal taps and crashes are better defined with a crisper hit and decay. This means that cymbals now sound more realistic over the slightly fuzzy sound of most stock cables.

    The Gin is a superb cable for the price, it is crisp and fast, with excellent detail and comfort. It does pair well with smoother to slightly warmer IEM’s, as it might be a little too much for brighter IEM’s due to its slightly drier tonality.
     
    Wyville likes this.
  8. ostewart
    Plussound Exo Copper
    Type 6 Litz UPOCC Copper
    http://www.plussoundaudio.com/customcables/inearmonitor.html

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    Packaging, Build quality and Ergonomics:
    The Exo comes in a nice black Plussound box with the company logo on the front, open this up and the cable is sealed in a plastic bag along with a business card and a couple of rubber amp straps. The packaging is more than just a standard bag with a cable in, and feels quite premium for the price. Well presented and very professional, great packaging here.

    The Exo cable is superbly built with a very even braid, solid metal connectors and y-split with excellent strain relief on all parts. It feels like a very well built cable that will last a long time but also looks superb. There are no flaws whatsoever in the build.

    This cable has no memory wire which to me is a plus, the heat shrink is angled so you know which way they go though. The cable is supple and very comfortable in use; the y-split is fairly big but lightweight. One thing that could be improved is the chin slider; it is not very tight and tends to slide down on its own. But overall the cable is the perfect balanced between cable thickness and ergonomics, being a little stiffer than the Effect Audio offerings. No cable noise was detected when using this cable.

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    Sound:
    The Exo Copper is one of Plussounds more affordable models, but don’t let this fool you. The cable uses litz copper and is one of the cleaner sounding copper cables out there. Firstly the soundstage is improved being wider and having more air between instruments, this also improves instrument separation and everything is a little more defined within the soundstage.

    Bass tones are slightly fuller than most stock cables, digging deeper with better definition, one thing that stands out is kick drums are backed up with better body but there is no hint of bloat anywhere. The midrange gets an extra bit of air around instruments, increasing separation and everything sounds a little crisper. The highs are not boosted, instead just like the midrange they gain a bit of extra definition and air, extending with ease. This cable is slightly full bodied but with extra air and definition bringing out extra detail in your IEM’s.

    So the Plussound Exo Copper is a slightly full sounding, but very detailed and open copper cable. It is not a full as the Atlas Zeno IEM, but provides better air and separation and it is not bright which means it pairs well with most IEM’s. I have been enjoying the Exo a lot with the Clear Tune VS-2 monitors.
     
  9. weissja36
    Great thread, thanks for all this info!!
     
    ostewart likes this.
  10. ostewart
    iBasso CB13
    5n OCC silver + 6n OCC copper
    http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=5310


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    Tech Specs:
    Material: 5n OCC silver + 6n OCC copper
    Connector: 2.5mm 4-pole balanced / MMCX
    Cores: 8
    MSRP: $199

    Packaging and Build Quality:
    The CB13 comes in a small plastic anti-static bag with the specs on the front along with the model number. The packaging is nothing fancy, but it does the job; I would have liked to have seen it come in a little box though.

    The CB13 is a very well built cable, the braid is even and the cable is thick, the jack has great strain relief and the MMCX connectors click into monitors tightly. I feel like this cable will last a long time and even though it is not a boutique handmade cable, it still feels top notch.

    Ergonomics and Cable Noise:
    The CB13 is a relatively thick cable, but the jacket is soft and thus the cable is pliable and never gets in the way. The parts that route up and over your ears don’t have memory wire but I prefer this and have not had any issues with it. There is a chin slider to take up the slack, overall the CB13 is a very comfortable and soft cable in use.

    There is no cable noise I can detect from the CB13 which is an excellent thing.

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    Sound:

    The CB13 is an excellent cable for the money, I will open with that because the CB13 allows you to keep the core signature (much like the Eros II) but focuses on adding more air and control to the sound. The CB13 is not a hugely coloured cable, lows are still full and articulate yet have a touch more control to them, reigning in any bloat that the stock cable might have. Next up with have the midrange which is injected with more clarity and also a more open soundstage, the smaller details are easier to pick out with the CB13. The highs gain some air and a hair more extension, but they are also very natural without a hint of harshness.

    The CB13 is a cable that allows you to detect the finer details with ease; it is a smooth but highly detailed cable that has openness to the sound that works wonders with most IEM’s. Even putting it on the modest Westone UM Pro10 brought some excellent improvements and cleared up the slight veil that they have, whilst adding another level of detail and separation.

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    Conclusion: The CB13 is a cable that is a pleasure to use, along with also being highly transparent and detailed sounding. It is soft and pliable, and will bring another layer of detail and separation to your monitors. For the price, it is a great cable and one that will work with most monitors providing you are not looking for a cable that drastically changes the sound signature.

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